With our recent addition of the ability for app users to earn a bonus point for sharing their purchases across social media, we wanted to write down why we think that it's a good idea for your business to utilise this feature. Grab a coffee and read on!
When Coca Cola brought out their personalized coke bottles, the world went crazy for them. Dubbed the “Share a Coke” campaign, it took off all over the world with bottles named after people in every different destination.
To keep momentum going, customers were asked to share pictures of themselves enjoying a drink with their personalized coke bottle on social media. The result? Coca Cola’s customers stepped into the role of advertiser.
This wasn’t just a one-off campaign, or a fancy fluke.
Instead, it is one of thousands of User Generated Content (UGC) campaigns that brought the business it promoted millions of revenue and a whole new image.
“The next wave of the Web is going to be user-generated content.” – John Doerr, Venture Capitalist.
But what exactly is User Generated Content?User Generated Content is defined as any type of content that has been created and put out there by unpaid contributors or, using a better term, fans. It can refer to pictures, videos, testimonials, tweets, blog posts, and everything in between and is the act of users promoting a brand rather than the brand itself.
So, UGC sounds like another one of those marketing buzzwords, right? In fact, it isn’t a fad at all. It’s been burning brightly for a while (well, a while for the fast-paced world of the internet).
Let’s take it back to 2009 for a moment to Burberry’s Art of the Trench UGC campaign. Eight years ago, brands were adopting the idea of their fans promoting their business – because word-of-mouth referrals are the best kind of referrals, even in the digital age.
Burberry asked its loyal fans to upload pictures of themselves and their friends wearing the brand’s iconic trench coat. All Burberry had to do was curate the best submissions, which they showcased on a dedicated microsite and their Facebook page.
When you consider that 86% of millennials say that UGC is a good indicator of the quality of a brand, and that 68% of social media users between the ages of 18 and 24 take into account information shared on social media when they make a purchasing decision (eMarketer), it’s easy to see why UGC is so powerful.
Why UGC is So Successful (and Why You Shouldn’t Ignore it)Obviously, UGC campaigns have been a constant player in the marketing world because they are so successful (do I need to point you back to the Share a Coke campaign?).
But why are they so successful? Why are brands turning to their audiences to share their products instead of crafting their own ads?
Online users are become increasingly savvy in knowing which companies are using slimy marketing tactics, and which ones are being authentic and transparent. You don’t need me to tell you which ones are most successful.
Instead, they crave stories, they crave connection, and they crave interaction with other humans (a byproduct, perhaps, of the increasing amount of time we spend in front of a computer screen?).
In reality, we’ve been buying into UGC content for centuries, but there are now media platforms to make it more accessible across the globe. And, when you discover that a whopping 92% of people are more likely to trust a recommendation from another person over branded content, it’s clear to see how far the trust between people and marketers has stretched.
Authenticity is so important in today’s online world. Customers are no longer the passive consumers led by TV commercials and billboards. Instead, they’re active choosers of their own fate and want a say in who they do and don’t buy from.
But how do they choose who to buy from? They opt for brands that have the same values as them, brands that they can connect with on a human level, and brands that “get them”.
It’s common knowledge that people like to feel a part of something. In a 1986 theory penned by MacMillon and Chavis, there were four things that encouraged people to feel like part of a community.
Shared emotional connection is pushed through UGC, too. MacMillon and Chavis stated that healthy communities have a story, and this is what brings them together.
This, obviously, is considerably cheaper than forking out thousands – or even millions – for prime-time TV commercials and Times Square billboards.
The beauty of UGC is that the users run the show, while marketers and business owners don’t have to empty their pockets on campaigns that may or may not perform well.
Take Starbucks’ White Cup Contest that took place back in 2014 as an example. Customers were encouraged to doodle all over their white Starbucks cups and post their images as entries for a competition to find a template for a limited edition Starbucks cup.
Nearly 4,000 customers submitted entries in just three weeks, showing that people were ready and willing to engage with the brand.
UGC vs Traditional MarketingConsumers are considerably less passive than they used to be when it comes to advertising. They’re now more active in the decisions they make, who they listen to, and who they choose to buy from and engage with.
These days, buying traditional ads both on external media and online is a competitive game (and, even if you pull out the big bucks, you still might not catch the attention of your customers).
Add that to the fact that consumers are actively choosing to bypass ads (take pay-to-play streaming platforms like Netflix and the rise of ad blockers) and are more likely to click through to a site if they see a friend recommend it, and you have a solid argument for UGC over traditional marketing.
UGC works as social proof, too. In a 2013 study, 79% of consumers admitted to trusting online reviews as much as in-person recommendations. That’s a huge metric.
Think for a moment about the ALS Association Ice Bucket Challenge. The charity challenge went viral for a few months, increasing awareness of the ALS Association (which not many people knew about beforehand) and bagging the company $100 million in donations. No small feat.
That’s another reason UGC is so important. In such a fast-paced, constantly-changing online landscape, content needs to be quick and on-trend. Instead of spending months and millions coming up with an advertising campaign that might be out of date by the time it finally airs, UGC allows brands to stay on the ball and stay current with their customers.
Brands can constantly be in touch with their audience, which means they stay at the forefront of minds.
The power of UGC is easy to see, and there’s no doubt that we’ll be seeing much, much more of it in the coming years as brands tap into the power of their audiences and take a step back from pushy sales tactics.